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The Schmooze

With Hurricane Joaquin Looming, Should Jews Take Down Their Sukkahs?

(JTA) — As Hurricane Joaquin gains steam off the southeastern coast of the United States, the question has begun to circulate online: Are Jews allowed to take down their sukkahs in the case of a storm?

The holiday of Sukkot, which began last Sunday, runs through this Sunday evening. Hurricane Joaquin, the first large tropical storm of the hurricane season (whose name means “raised by God” in Hebrew), could hit east coast shores this weekend — just before the end of the holiday.

Regardless of whether the Category 3 hurricane does make landfall, it will bring as much as 20 inches of rain to states such as Georgia, the Carolinas, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Some families and synagogues that have constructed sukkahs — the temporary huts that are meant to represent shelter during the harvest holiday of Sukkot — are worried that the inclement weather could destroy the symbolic structures.

Some are more confident that their sukkahs will defy the storm.

According to Jewish law, a sukkah should be taken down if it is going to be damaged or poses danger to those in or around it. If it is damaged, it is technically no longer fulfilling the requirements of the holiday.

Rabbi Marjorie Slome of the West End Synagogue on the Rockaway beach in Queens, New York added that Sukkot is meant to be enjoyed in comfort.

“It’s supposed to be the season of rejoicing and you’re not going to be rejoicing if rain is getting into your soup,” Slome said.

Slome, who is Reform, has experience juggling Judaism and tropical storms. Her synagogue was inundated with five feet of water during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and is still reconstructing its damaged offices.

“I’ll pay attention to the weather and do whatever they’re telling us to do,” Slome said.

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